This week I find myself in quaint Burlington, Mass (on hour north of Boston). While last week I was sipping Coronas on a tropical beach in Panama, thankfully isolated from the world, this week I am forcibly isolated in the woods without a rental car. Three weeks ago, when I was in the Boston area, I made my way to Florian’s Martial Arts Center in Brookline for the second time. This time the lack of personal transport forced me to adjust the scope of my search for somewhere to train.
Google maps showed Fenix Fight Club in nearby Woburn (4 miles away). Ten minutes and twenty dollars later (Cabs in the ‘burbs are freaking expensive!), I found myself in front of a shuttered fitness club on a lonely industrial road. As the cab drove away, I could almost hear the slasher flick overture building. Luckily, I stuck it out and found the gym tucked in the back of the complex.
The front area of the gym looked like someone’s living room, with nice wood flooring, a large sofa, television and I think I spotted an Xbox. Looked like a fun place to hang out while waiting for your class to start. I met the owner, Ronaldo Campos, who was nice. Though, the walls were covered with photos of him being ‘not so nice’ in various MMA matches and BJJ tournaments. Ronaldo earned big BJJ Karma points for not charging a mat fee.
We started off with some Spider Guard (pronounced “Spidah Gawd” by Bostonians), which coincidentally has also been a recent focus at my home gym, Ronin Athletics. Its become a popular guard and we’d been mainly drilling counters and defense. Unfortunately, I’ve had trouble incorporating it as part of my regular game probably for the reason that everyone is all too ready with a counter. Its hard to build a skill with everyone shutting you down at the low point on the learning curve. Conversely, I’ve realized that my Spider Guard defense is not as good as I thought, as I’ve visited other gyms and rolled with guys who do use it as their regular game. So, while I had a somewhat humbling experience as I practiced some basic Spider sweeps with a white belt who seemed to be picking it up more quickly, I welcomed the opportunity to build up the weak areas of my game.
During open mat, I rolled with some blues and a purple with mixed results. I also got to roll with Ronaldo. The highlight of my evening was that I almost took his back when I started the round my favorite De La Riva attack against the combat base. Granted, this was in the first few seconds and I had the advantage of surprise. He recovered very, very quickly and I must have tapped out five or six times in the next three minutes of the round, but I appreciated that he didn’t completely shut me down and let me work some defense and counters. I try to check my ego when some white belt gets one over on me, so I appreciate when higher belts do the same for me. Its good BJJ Karma. Plus, I had just gotten beat up by a big, stong blue belt, so seeing even the hint of a black belt’s back made me feel much better. (I try to leave ego out of it, but it doesn’t always work.)
When we were bowing out, Ronaldo thanked the group and “our friend from New York”. That was nice. I’ve enjoyed a good run of warm receptions at the last few gyms I’ve visited. It also made me smile because it reminded me of this scene from Donnie Brasco. Apparently, I’m now a made guy.